Beauty’s Bagel Shop will be bringing its popular Montreal-style, wood-fired bagels to a second Oakland location at 1700 Franklin Street in Uptown with a targeted spring opening. There, Beauty’s menu of bagel sandwiches, lox, and shakshuka should be similar to the one at its original, 2012-opened location at 3838 Telegraph Avenue in Temescal.
But hovering over excitement for the expansion is news that the space’s previous tenants, husband and wife owners of Henry’s Gallery Café , recently lost their life savings in a robbery and are facing deportation.
That news, from an article yesterday in the East Bay Express, was unknown to Beauty’s owners Amy Remsen and Blake Joffe, who signed their lease in May and have already invested thousands of dollars in their expansion effort, hiring a designer and more. Financially, Remsen and Joffe have to move forward. They’ve offered to delay taking over the lease, but Henry’s owners have already left the premises.
Jung Sook Park and husband Yong Soo Jung opened Henry’s in 2007 serving wraps and Korean Sandwiches. In 2012, the building’s landlord — Steven Banker of LCB Associates — renewed the business’s original five-year lease for another five years. But this April, Banker told Jung and park to find a new space and vacate the premises by July 31.
Jung, who speaks limited English and was not aided by a translator in his interactions with Banker, tells the Express through a translator that he understood the lease negotiations to be ongoing, and was caught by surprise when he learned he couldn’t stay.
Banker disputes this, and maintains it was fully communicated to Jung and Park that they would have to leave by July 31, when Banker planned to perform seismic updates to the building. Additionally, Banker alleges that he had “major concerns with the cleanliness of the space, including major issues with cockroaches, which [Jung] refused to fix and which we had to pay for ourselves.”
To complicate matters for Jung and Park, the couple was robbed of their life savings in June — $40,000 in cash hidden in their home — along with visa documents, passports, and jewelry. “The thieves took everything: Money, appliances, passports, down to the dishes,” a friend and customer Amy Newman writes on a GoFundMe page to raise money for the couple. “Jung and his wife, like many immigrants, did not keep their money in banks, and did not have insurance. His entire savings, including tuition for his son’s final year in college, is gone.”
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $16,000, exceeding its goal, but the couple has little legal recourse without insurance and security camera footage. Meanwhile, Homeland Security mailed Jung a letter demanding that he provide proof of a signed lease demonstrating that he’s a small business owner in order to renew his visa.
While their circumstances aren’t necessarily comparable, Beauty’s owners now find themselves in an unexpected and deeply uncomfortable position, caught in a narrative of displacement and gentrification. As the GoFundMe page frames the situation, “In addition to the devastating burglary of his home, Jung is being forced to close his business, Henry’s Gallery Cafe, because the landlord will not renew his lease after 10 years (to make way for a more upscale client in this increasingly gentrified area of Oakland).”
“All we knew was that the previous tenant had been there for ten years and that the lease was done,” says Joffe. “The landlord didn’t want to renew his lease, they wanted to fill it, and they asked if we were interested.”
Banker, however, resists the idea that he’s short-changed anyone. “A story about me wanting to seismically update a building is boring, and gentrification is a hot topic. But we didn’t seek a Starbucks or a Safeway for the space — Beauty’s is a homegrown Oakland success.”
“It was never our intention to displace another business,” says Remsen. “We were shocked — We didn’t know the backstory of the other tenant. We didn’t know anything about his house being robbed.” In fact, before the GoFundMe page and the recent article, it’s unlikely that more than a few people did. And when Remsen and Joffe signed their lease this spring, they couldn’t have known at all — it was months before the robbery occurred.
Looking ahead, Joffe says the Montreal-style bagel shop will open as early as next February or March. Stay tuned for details on Beauty’s expansion as well as Jung and Parks’s recovery efforts.